Women’s participation in the Pacific region’s collective response to the impacts of climate change will be an essential component to realizing the global ambition of leaving no one behind, as we strive for sustainable development.
Whether they were part of delegates themselves or supported the preparation of their national delegates to climate change negotiations, the 22 women from nine Forum countries agreed that last week’s Pacific Women’s Climate Change Negotiation Workshop significantly boosted their knowledge and skills.
Representing governments, non-state actors and faith-based organisations, the workshop informed participants of the nuances of sustainable development in relation to climate change, taught skills and clarified the complex pathways that characterise climate change-related negotiations, which they then linked to their respective roles.
Ofa Kaisamy, the Government of Tonga’s climate change principal policy and planning analyst said the workshop reaffirmed the importance of ensuring different perspectives on climate change and its impact. Further, the impact of climate change on women was a question of human rights, identity and survival.
“The training has given us an understanding of our role in diplomacy, it has inspired and motivated us to know our tasks and responsibilities as far as climate change is concerned, how to prioritise and mainstream gender into for example, our national plans,” Ms Kaisamy said.
The training which was facilitated by the Women’s Development and Environment Organisation (WEDO) and supported by the Government of Australia and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in Suva.
Diverse Voices for Action and Equality regional gender and climate justice advocate Maria Nailevu commended the timing of the training, the diversity of participants, the varying thematic areas they represented and the fact it was designed specifically for Pacific women negotiators.
“What excites me the most is having a program targeted and designed for women in the Pacific,” Ms Nailevu said. “For me that is really amazing and an excellent move by WEDO, the Australian Government as well as the Forum Secretariat because I strongly believe that to have women go through this capacity-building initiative is necessary and critical for our work.
“I look forward to more capacity-building support initiatives such as this that seek to train our women better, to be more effective, to be more powerful and to be more comfortable in the spaces they go to.”
Bridget Burns, the co-director of WEDO which has been conducting such training for more than 10 years, said she had confidence in the group and, of women’s capacity to amplify the voices of those who have been absent from climate change-related decision-making.
“We recognised many years ago that the climate negotiations were quite imbalanced in terms of who was speaking, whose voices were being represented. There were not enough women sitting around the table and there were certainly not enough women in positions of leadership,” Ms Burns said.
“We have seen some shifts in that space, we’ve seen women taking on both the role of executive secretary as well as roles of heads of delegations but there’s still an imbalance and we really think that there can be no solution to climate change if half the world’s population is not equally part of these decisions.”
During her opening remarks at the beginning of the workshop, Deputy Australian High Commissioner Amy Crago reiterated that women must be part of the solution at all levels, because responses to the impacts of climate change that are devoid of women’s experiences and capacities, will be ineffective.
“We know that women and girls are disproportionally impacted by climate change, particularly in developing countries, and they experience pervasive and persistent inequality and discrimination that limits their ability to adapt and respond,” Ms Crago said.
“Australia is committed to translating the ambitions enshrined in these global commitments into practical, gender-responsive action, which is where this workshop and the people in this room come in. All of you will play a major role in shaping the response to climate change and delivering on the aims of these historic multilateral agreements.”
Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat deputy secretary-general Cristelle Pratt said the climate change negotiators training, which ended on February 3, was an investment in ensuring that negotiations related to climate change action would be representative of all sections of our island countries and communities.
“This training will ensure that the voices of those most vulnerable with limited opportunity to be heard will be heard through you,” Ms Pratt said. “Your voices count and they should continue to be heard, and as the workshop brochure so aptly states: participation is power. If we remain on the sidelines and keep quiet, we may be overlooked by stronger voices that deviate and distract attention away from us.”
Women disproportionately bear the brunt of the impact of climate change as their coping mechanisms are already limited by social-economic and political barriers. Despite such realities, men continue to comprise 74 per cent of delegations to the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties (COP).
Fiji is the chair for COP23 in Bonn (Germany) in November (2017). The Association of Small Island Developing States (AOSIS) as a recognised negotiation block, have adopted COP23 as the SIDS COP.
In an attempt to regionalise and operationalise international climate change action-related instruments to ensure appropriate and realistic application in Pacific Island countries, Pacific Islands Forum Leaders approved the Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific: An Integrated Approach to Address Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management (FRDP) in September, 2016.
The FRDP provides high level strategic guidance to different stakeholder groups on how to enhance resilience to climate change and disasters, in ways that contribute to and are embedded in sustainable development. The FRDP centralises human rights, gender equality and provisions specific to often marginalised groups.
Ms Pratt acknowledged the effective advocacy of Pacific leaders which has raised the profile of the region and the emerging issues stemming from a phenomenon which requires urgent action “if we are to secure a sustainable future for our region, for our communities and for our families”.
“We should not remain idle and we should not let the world through their inactivity and uncertainty undermine the significance of the effects and threats of climate change to the very survival and future of our region and our peoples,” she said.
By Pacific Island Forum Secretariat, reposted from Fiji Times Online, 7 February 2017